50 Moments That Shaped Greater Palm Springs (2023)

Since the Southern Pacific Railroad put down tracks in the desert, pioneers and visionaries have been working hard to make Greater Palm Springs the idyllic destination the world knows today.

Steven Biller Current PSL, History

50 Moments That Shaped Greater Palm Springs (1)

The opening of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway in 1963 was a game changer for Greater Palm Springs.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Time sometimes seems to stand still while we lounge poolside, cocktail in hand, sun aglow, mountains texturing our view through the breezy palm trees. But this idyllic oasis didn’t just appear like a mirage. No, it has a history as rich as its natural beauty, and a little time is all you need to appreciate how this fantasyland took shape on the sands of the Coachella Valley. Here’s a cheat sheet with some of the most scene-shifting moments that made the desert a sweet spot in Southern California.

1876

Government Establishes Agua Caliente Reservation

Section 14 (downtown Palm Springs) and a portion of Section 22 (Tahquitz Canyon) in Palm Springs are set aside by executive order of President Ulysses S. Grant as the Agua Caliente Reservation. A year later, the government dramatically expands the tribal land, creating the checkerboard map of Palm Springs, Cathedral City, and Rancho Mirage that we know today.

1876

Southern Pacific Makes a Stop in Indio

In need of a halfway point betweenLos Angeles and Yuma, Arizona, the Southern Pacific Railroad arrives in what would become Indio (Spanish for “Indian”), where it builds the craftsman-style Southern Pacific Depot station and hotel that became the center of social life in the area. Indio would incorporate in 1930 and become an agricultural town.

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Agua Caliente women and children in the shade of a ramada in 1898.

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The first bathhouse at the Agua Caliente’s hot mineral spring.

1889

Bathhouse Opens at hot mineral spring site

After the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians invite non-Natives to settle around their hot mineral spring, word of its restorative properties leads to a three-year lease agreement between the tribe and the settlers, who build a bathhouse over the waters. The tribe, which rebuilt the bathhouse in the 1930s and razed it again in favor of a modern facility in 1960, will unveil The Spa at Séc-he in the new Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza opening in 2023.

1900

Groundwater Discovered in Coachella

Jason L. Rector, the first recorded non-Native American to make a permanent home in Coachella (then called Woodspur), and his brother Lon drill a well at the corner of Grapefruit Boulevard and Fifth Street and discover a groundwater supply that will transform the area into productive farmland.

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Salton Sea forms in 1905.

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John Muir came to the desert in 1905.

1903

USDA Seeds the First Date Garden

Bernard Johnson imports the first commercial Deglet Noor date shoots from Algeria and transplants them near Mecca, seeding a crop that continues to thrive in the eastern Coachella Valley.

1905

John Muir Visits the Desert

Naturalist John Muir, aka the “Father of the National Parks,” visits Palm Springs hoping the warm, dry air would ease his daughter’s respiratory condition. Photojournalist Helen Lukens Gaut, writing in the October 1948 issue of Palm Springs Villager, recalls that Muir sent a telegram to Dr. Welwood Murray, owner of the Palm Springs Hotel, where she was a guest, to arrange transportation and accommodations for himself and his two daughters. Against Murray’s advice, the Muirs camp for six days in Andreas Canyon, relying on the stream and palm trees for relief from the triple-digit summer temperatures.

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY COACHELLA VALLEY HISTORY MUSEUM
Early date planters.

1905

Salton Sea Forms Amid Engineering Disaster

Engineers trying to increase the flow of water from the Colorado River lose control and overwhelm irrigation canals for 18 months. The deluge fills the dry, ancient lakebed known as the Salton Sink and creates California’s largest lake, 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. In the 1950s and ’60s, the sea becomes a recreation destination; but as its salinity increases, it loses its sparkle and visitation plummets. A pair of storms in the 1970s deliver the final blow, destroying homes, businesses, and marinas along the shore. More than 40 years later, they continue decaying as the sea evaporates, creating an environmental health crisis for the region.

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Women cast votes at The Desert Inn in 1919.

1909

Nellie Coffman Opens The Desert Inn

“Mother” Nellie Coffman seeds the hospitality industry in the Coachella Valley, opening The Desert Inn with wood-framed tent structures in what would become the heart of downtown Palm Springs. (Incidentally, in 1919, when Congress passed the women’s suffrage amendment, local women cast their first ballots at The Desert Inn.)

By the 1920s, Spanish Mediterranean-style buildings replace the tents, and Coffman’s vision for an elite resort comes to life. After she dies, her sons, George Roberson and Earl Coffman, sell the property. A new owner razes it in the late 1960s to clear the space for a multimillion-dollar shopping mall called The Desert Inn Fashion Plaza.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY EDWARD S. CURTIS / COURTESY CHARLES DEERING MCCORMICK LIBRARY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
A Cahuilla woman photographed by ethnologist Edward S. Curtis in 1924.

1924

Edward S. Curtis Meets the Cahuilla

Photographer and ethnologist Edward S. Curtis rolls into Palm Springs to document the Cahuilla people on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation forhis 20-volume magnum opus, The North American Indian, covering some 80 American Indian tribes. His entry on the Cahuilla describes typical tribal members’ houses, methods of sourcing and preparing food, and even rituals for birth, puberty, marriage, and death. However, Curtis never determines the origin of the tribe’s name, theorizing that it “is probably the Spanish rendering ofKawika, westward (literally ‘mountain-ward’).”

1926

La Quinta Hotel Opens to the Stars

San Francisco oyster company heir Walter H. Morgan opens the Spanish-style
La Quinta Hotel with 20 guest casitas, an open-air dining room, three courtyards, and the area’s first nine-hole golf course, which the public could play for a $1 daily fee. The hotel becomes a getaway for Hollywood luminaries such as Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, and Shirley Temple. Filmmaker Frank Capra returns frequently to work on screenplays, Ginger Rogers marries Jacques Bergerac in front of the waterfall, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower visits several times with his family.

Now part of Hilton’s top-tier Waldorf Astoria collection, La Quinta Resort & Club offers 800 casitas, villas, and suites; seven restaurants; luxury boutiques; a world-class spa; 41 climate-controlled swimming pools; 21 tennis courts; eight pickleball courts; five public golf courses with three clubhouses (at the resort and at sister property PGA West); a yoga studio; and a large gym with a robust schedule of classes.

1927

Frank Bogert Arrives

Frank Bogert comes to Palm Springs as a 17-year-old but leaves for UCLA and a brief career as an actor and stuntman. When he returns, he cuts himself into the scene by taking photographs of famous guests at El Mirador Hotel. Easily spotted in town with his white cowboy hat, bolo tie, and size 14 cowboy boots, Bogert emerges as a spirited promoter of his adopted city, eventually becoming the manager of the Racquet Club, Tennis Club, and Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. He also sits on the Tramway Authority board and founds Thunderbird Dude Ranch (forerunner to Thunderbird Country Club). Bogert is twice elected mayor of Palm Springs, serving from 1958 to 1966 and from 1982 to 1988, and works with leaders of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and other local communities, as well as the state and federal governments, to transform the village into a world-class city.

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The El Mirador Hotel.

1927

The Grandest Resort Opens

On New Year’s Eve, Hollywood celebrities and local businessmen celebrate the opening of El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs. Its 165 rooms accommodate a who’s who of guests: Albert Einstein, John Barrymore, Salvador Dalí, Shirley Temple, H.G. Wells, Charles Chaplin, and Charles Howard, owner of the racehorse Seabiscuit.

The 20-acre resort — with its Olympic-size swimming pool, tennis courts, stables, and golf course — falls into debt after the 1929 stock market crash and sells at auction for $300,000 in 1932.

A decade later, when the United States enters World War II, the army buys and converts the hotel into Torney General Hospital. It becomes a hotel again in the 1950s and ’60s until new owner John Conte transforms part of the property into a television studio. In 1972, Desert Hospital buys the entire property and begins expanding into the modern campus of Desert Regional Medical Center.

Through all of its owners and changes, the property’s Spanish colonial revival–style
El Mirador Tower remains a city landmark at the entrance to the hospital.

1934

Albert Frey Makes First Visit to Palm Springs

Having left New York City, where in 1931 they designed the all-metal Aluminaire House, architects Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher land in Palm Springs, where they collaborate on the Kocher-Samson Building. Frey falls in love with the area and pioneers desert modernism, matching the extreme elements with nontraditional building materials that cool quickly. Frey goes on to put his modernist mark all over the city, from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station and Tramway Gas Station (now Palm Springs Visitor Center) to Palm Springs City Hall and a variety of residences in town. His second desert home — Frey House II, built around a massive boulder — becomes iconic. He lives there for 64 years, until he dies in 1998 at age 95. Palm Springs Art Museum plans to reconstruct the Aluminaire House downtown.

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM SPRINGS LIFE ARCHIVE
Harry Williams and Nellie Coffman at the Nov. 1, 1936, dedication of La Plaza in downtown Palm Springs.

1936

La Plaza and Plaza Theatre Launch a New Era

La Plaza, the heart and soul of downtown Palm Springs for 86 years and counting, comes to life, the result of Harry J. Williams’ doodle on the back of an envelope.

The architect, who came to Palm Springs from Dayton, Ohio, to design the Carnell Building (184–196 N. Palm Canyon Drive), is invited back to draw up the open-air shopping and entertainment destination, which has 38 shops, 21 bungalows, eight penthouses, chauffeurs’ quarters, and a 150-car underground garage. Early tenants include Sale’s Plaza Market, Plaza Pharmacy, Potter’s Hardware, Kubic’s Garden of Edom, and Palm Springs Art Museum.

A month after Nellie Coffman cuts the ribbon on the shopping center, Earle Strebe opens the Plaza Theatre with the world premiere of George Cukor’s filmCamille, starring Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, and Lionel Barrymore. Seats go for $10 each. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the theater becomes home to The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies before sitting dormant. The city of Palm Springs, which owns the structure, has launched a capital campaign to raise funds to fully restore it.

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Palm Springs Desert Museum

1938

Museum Opens with a Focus on Nature

Palm Springs Desert Museum opens in a single room at La Plaza with a focus on natural science exhibits, lectures, and hikes around the desert.

Over generations, the museum moves to the Welwood Murray Library (1940s); a section of the city’s library (during World War II); a space in the old Torney General Hospital (after the war); and an army surplus building on Tahquitz Canyon Way (1950s) that was razed, rebuilt with an E. Stewart Williams design (1958), and expanded (1962) to include an auditorium. The current Williams-designed building against the San Jacinto Mountains opened in 1976 and is a showcase for modern and contemporary art.

1939

Agua Caliente Form Tribal Government

The Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Commissioner of Indian Affairs grant approval to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians to form a tribal management on behalf of its members.

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World War II soldiers trained in the desert.

1939

World War II soldiers train in the desert

World War II begins and the Coachella Valley plays a role. The area known today as Palm Desert serves as a training ground for military forces under Gen. George S. Patton, El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs temporarily becomes an army hospital, and a military airfield is established on Indian land, in Section 18, in Palm Springs. The war ends in 1945, beginning a period of transformation in the desert.

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Frank Sinatra preferred his desert home over the others.

1947

Ol’ Blue Eyes Comes to Town

Frank Sinatra signs a lucrative movie deal with MGM and comes to Palm Springs looking for a weekend crash pad. He hires E. Stewart Williams to build a modern home we now know as Twin Palms — the epitome of casual Hollywood glamour with its curvaceous pool and deck made for cocktail parties. The crooner lives in the house for a decade and spends his next 30 years at Tamarisk Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

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Although he has homes in Los Angeles and New York, Sinatra prefers being in the desert. He and fellow Rat Packers Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop pack the showroom at the Riviera, and Sinatra gives generously, even putting his name on a celebrity golf tournament to build Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center on the campus of Eisenhower Medical Center (now Eisenhower Health).

1948

Henderson Brothers Pioneer Palm Desert

Newspaper editor Randall Henderson decides to headquarter Desert Magazine, which he launched in 1936 to share stories about the area’s people and natural beauty, in a place that represents his vision for the publication. He finds his spot at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, where he and his brother, aviation pioneer Clifford, continue buying land — 1,600 acres — with visions of developing luxury resorts, neighborhoods, and retail spaces. By 1948, it had a name: Palm Desert. It was incorporated in 1973. (The magazine ceased publication in 1985.)

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Cabot Yerxa

1950

Cabot Yerxa Opens old indian Pueblo

Adventurer Cabot Yerxa, who settled in what is now Desert Hot Springs in 1913 and discovered a pair of aquifers — one that included a natural hot spring that would later power the town’s spas and resorts, and the other a cold aquifer that would provide fresh water — opens Cabot’s Old Indian Pueblo, a 5,000-square-foot, Hopi-style structure to house his collection of Native American and other artifacts.

After Yerxa dies in 1965 and the pueblo falls into disrepair, Cole Eyraud purchases and restores the complex. After he dies, his daughter donates it to the city of Desert Hot Springs. Today, Cabot’s Pueblo Museum is open to the public as a cultural attraction.

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Bob Hope

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Section 14 in Palm Springs.

1951

The Desert Gets its First 18-Hole Golf Course

Johnny Dawson purchases Thunderbird Ranch in Rancho Mirage and establishes the Coachella Valley’s first 18-hole golf course, designed by Lawrence Hughes. Thunderbird Country Club, as it was renamed, would host celebrities (Bob Hope, Bing Crosby), world leaders (Gerald Ford, Barack Obama), and tournaments such as the Ryder Cup and the Palm Springs Golf Classic (now the American Express tournament). It’s widely believed that the golf cart was invented at Thunderbird.

1955

Tribe Wins Land Lease Extension

Mayor Frank Bogert accompanies Agua Caliente tribal council chairwoman Vyola Ortner to the U.S. Capitol to argue for land lease extensions from five to 25 years to promote development on tribal lands. Ortner’s plea — “My tribe needs vitamin M — Money” — resonates, and lawmakers pass a bill that President Eisenhower signs into law. However, the victory comes at a cost. Residents of Section 14 (now downtown Palm Springs) are evicted to clear the land for development. A state attorney general report in 1968 charges “minority homes were destroyed by a city-engineered holocaust.” Ortner says, “This was our land, and we had a right to develop it.” The site is now home to the Agua Caliente Casino, Palm Springs Convention Center, hotels, shops, and restaurants as well as the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza, which will open next year with a cultural museum and spa.

1958

College of the Desert Wins Approval

Voters approve the formation of a community college district as well as a
$3.5 million bond issue to fund the development of College of the Desert. In 1961, nine buildings, designed by local architect John Porter Clark, go up on 160 acres in Palm Desert. The first students arrive in the fall of 1962.

1959

Feds Finalize Tribal Land Allotments

President Eisenhower signs the Equalization Act, ending the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ decadeslong fight for individual tribal member land allotments, which were initially authorized in 1887, and sets aside certain lands — including the popular Palm, Andreas, Murray, and Palm canyons (collectively known as the Indian Canyons) — for tribal use. Meanwhile, the Long-Term Leasing Act, which Eisenhower signs into law a month later, authorizes 99-year leases of tribal land. These two laws dramatically change the character of Palm Springs from a tiny village into a fledgling city ripe for growth and development.

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Palm Springs International Airport

1961

Angels Play Ball in Palm Springs

Gene Autry, the “singing cowboy,” ushers in the desert’s golden era for baseball when he brings his California Angels to Palm Springs for spring training. The city builds a stadium at Sunrise Park, and fans return year after year during the team’s three-decade stay. Sports writers converge on Autry’s namesake hotel (now Parker Palm Springs), where they angle for candid moments with Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, and Nolan Ryan. In 1992, the team moves its preseason to Tempe, Arizona.

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Gene Autry brought the California Angels to Palm Springs for springs training.

1963

New Spa Puts Tribe in Spotlight

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ all-female tribal council leases 8 acres in the heart of their reservation to Samuel Banowit and Palm Springs Spa Inc., a partnership that birthed the Agua Caliente Spa and Hotel, which included a 30,000-square-foot health center on the spot of the ancient hot mineral springs. The site is now home to the forthcoming Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza, which includes The Spa at Séc-he and the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum.

1963

The Tramway Reaches Great Heights

Dignitaries from around the world converge on Chino Canyon, north of town, for the first rides from the sandy desert floor to the alpine peak of Mount San Jacinto on Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the brainchild of electrical engineer Francis Crocker, who realized the wildly popular and enduring attraction with the help of Earl Coffman. The tramway, which gained historical engineering landmark designation in 1983, now draws almost a half-million visitors annually to ride the rotating tram cars and indulge in hiking, rock climbing, snowboarding, and expansive views of the Coachella Valley.

1964

Commercial Flights Take Off from Palm Springs

The first scheduled commercial airline flights start at Palm Springs Municipal Airport. A year later, construction begins on the main terminal, designed by local architect Donald Wexler. In 1986, the city council votes to change the facility’s name to Palm Springs International Airport. Smarter Travel has since named the small and easy-to-navigate PSP to its list of “America’s Most Stress-Free Airports,” and the city’s Historical Site Preservation Board has granted Class I designation to the west façade of the main building.

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PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY PALM SPRINGS LIFE ARCHIVES
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and the Palm Springs Spa.

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1965

Grape Boycott Launches Movement for Farmworkers Rights

Filipino farmworkers launch the first strike against table-grape growers. The 10-day event involves several Coachella Valley vineyards and 1,000 farmworkers, who would win a $0.15 per hour increase, boosting their pay to $1.40 per hour, according to the book Coachella: A History of Coachella and its People by former Desert Sun journalist Jeff Crider. The demonstration precedes the biggest grape worker strike in California history, and Cesar Chavez emerges as the chief spokesman for farmworker rights as founder of the United Farm Workers labor union. He is credited with securing the first collective bargaining agreements as well as mandated rest periods, clean drinking water, hand-washing stations, and clothing to prevent workers from pesticide exposure. Chavez would organize many marches and protests in Coachella and use the UFW office at 722 Vine St. in downtown Coachella whenever he was in town. Today, a colorful mural created by The Date Farmers artist collaborative commemmorates the grape boycott on the side of the builing.

1966

The Annenbergs complete Sunnylands

Walter and Leonore Annenberg move to Sunnylands, their new, 25,000-square-foot winter house designed by A. Quincy Jones. Known to locals by its pink perimeter wall, the property includes the main house, guest quarters, a nine-hole golf course, and 13 manmade lakes. With an ambitious goal to turn Sunnylands into the “Camp David of the West,” the Annenbergs entertain eight U.S. presidents and scores of world leaders, entertainers, intellectuals, friends, and family through the years. After both Annenbergs die, The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands opens the property to the public as Sunnylands Center & Gardens. It continues to host high-level meetings and retreats, and its magnificent gardens, inspired by impressionist paintings, welcome visitors throughout the year. Guests can also tour the main house.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY CLEMENTINA OLLOQUE
Farmworkers march from Coachella to Mexicali.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY JULIUS SHULMAN © J. PAUL GETTY TRUST. GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE, LOS ANGELES
The Annenberg estate

1967

Shoppers Flock to Desert Fashion Plaza

Home Savings and Loan Associated acquires and razes the historic Desert Inn property to build Desert Inn Fashion Plaza, a mall anchored with a 20,000-square-foot I. Magnin department store. It becomes the shopping and gathering place of a generation.

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Desert Fashion Plaza in downtown Palm Springs.

In the 1980s, to retain its shine as Palm Desert’s El Paseo Shopping District and Town Center mall began presenting competition, a new owner renovates and expands Desert Fashion Plaza, dropping Desert Inn from its name and adding stores and a six-story hotel with underground parking. By the time Saks Fifth Avenue relocates to El Paseo in 2001, however, Desert Fashion Plaza is finished. Demolished in 2014, the property is being redeveloped as The Block by Grit Development. Tenants include Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, West Elm, Sephora, Johnny Was, H&M, Kiehl’s, and Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar.

1970

The Living Desert Opens in Palm Desert

Several trustees of Palm Springs Desert Museum (now Palm Springs Art Museum) establish a 360-acre wilderness preserve with a kit fox, tortoises, lizards, and a pair of bighorn sheep. That is followed by a garden mimicking the Mojave Desert, greenhouses, and model trains. Now situated over 1,200 acres in the cities of Palm Desert and Indian Wells, the conservation-oriented attraction represents the deserts of the world in its African Safari, Wilds of North America, and Australian Adventures habitats.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY GETTY IMAGES
Slim Aarons’ “Poolside Gossip” has become as iconic as the Richard Neutra-designed Kaufmann House, where he shot the photograph.

1970

Slim Aarons Shoots “Poolside Gossip”

Slim Aarons, the photographer of socialites, celebrities, and jet-setters, captures “Poolside Gossip,” the iconic image of Lita Baron, Helen Dzo Dzo, and Nelda Linsk enjoying a leisurely day by the pool at the Palm Springs house designed by Richard Neutra for Edgar J. Kaufmann. The view, which shows the women locked in conversation, cocktails in hand, becomes instantly recognizable as an emblem of modern, monied American culture in the ’70s.

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY
President Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan at Eisenhower Medical Center.

1971

Donors propel Eisenhower Medical Center

Eisenhower Medical Center opens almost 10 years after frozen-food company founder W. Clarke Swanson collapses while playing golf with former President Eisenhower in Rancho Mirage. His widow, Florence, convinced that Swanson would have lived had there been a hospital closer than Palm Springs, called on Bob and Dolores Hope, who donated 80 acres of prime real estate and rallied an influential group of benefactors — including Walter Annenberg, Frank Sinatra, and Leonard Firestone — to make significant contributions to build the hospital. The medical center steadily adds services, capabilities, and facilities to meet the needs of the region and, in 2018, rebrands as Eisenhower Health to emphasize its reach, with primary, urgent, and specialty-care centers located throughout the valley.

1972

Dinah Shore Lends Her Name to LPGA Event

Best known as an actress, singer, and talk-show host, Dinah Shore is revered for her commitment to promoting women’s golf, championing the LPGA Tour and especially the Colgate Dinah Shore golf tournament at Mission Hills Country Club (her home course in the desert). The tournament lives 50 years, until its last round as the ANA Inspiration earlier this year. (Incidentally, Leonard DiCaprio now owns Shore’s Donald Wexler–designed house in the Old Las Palmas neighborhood of Palm Springs.)

1978

Mission Hills Hosts Davis Cup

Mission Hills Country Club becomes the first venue west of Cleveland, Ohio, to host a Davis Cup final. The U.S. team prevails over Great Britain, 4-1, with Buster Mottram earning the Brits’ only point in an epic 4½-hour match against Brian Gottfried. But a 19-year-old John McEnroe wins the cover of Sports Illustrated, beating Mottram and British star John Lloyd in singles matches. Stan Smith and Bob Lutz win in doubles.

1979

Iconic Bob Hope House Completed

John Lautner rendered the Bob Hope House a decade earlier. The circular 24,000-square-foot residence looks like a spaceship atop the Southridge development with its massive, gravity-defying roof and 60-foot-wide oculus. Ron Burkle purchases the property in 2016 for $13 million. (Lautner later designs the nearby Elrod House as well as a hotel in Desert Hot Springs.)

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Betty Ford confronts addiction.

1982

Betty Ford Center Opens

The famous nonprofit treatment center for people with alcohol and drug addictions — founded by former First Lady Betty Ford, Leonard Firestone, and Dr. James West — opens in Rancho Mirage. Celebrities who have spent time recovering at the center include Elizabeth Taylor, Drew Barrymore, Jay-Z, Lindsay Lohan, and David Hasselhoff.

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1984

Coachella Elects first Latina Mayor

Members of the Coachella City Council select Yolanda R. Coba as the first Latina mayor in the Coachella Valley. Coba, a councilwoman from 1980 to 1989, serves two one-year terms as mayor, between 1984 to 1989.

1987

Trevino Hits Hole-in-One

In a Skins Game field that includes Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Fuzzy Zoeller, Lee Trevino hits a hole-in-one at one of golf’s toughest holes: the par-3 No. 17 on the Pete Dye–designed Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta. The hole is known as Alcatraz — an island green situated 165 yards away from the tee. “Can’t get any prettier than that!” he immediately exclaimed. Trevino won the made-for-TV tournament.

1988

McCallum Theatre Opens

McCallum Theatre opens with America’s All-Star Tribute to Bob Hope, a star-studded, nationally televised NBC special. The red curtains have since lifted for performers spanning generations, from George Burns and Johnny Cash to Jennifer Hudson and Janet Jackson. In addition to record-setting ticket sales, the theater has a model education program and a crowd-pleasing choreography festival.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY KEITH HAILEY/POPPERFOTO, GETTY IMAGES
Amy Alcott and caddie Bill Kurre start a tradition.

1988

Amy Alcott Takes a Victory Splash

Excited after her win at the Nabisco Dinah Shore Championship golf tournament, Amy Alcott along with caddie Bill Kurre jump into Poppie’s Pond, surrounding the 18th green at Mission Hills Country Club. Alcott wins again in 1991 and jumps in with Shore. The plunge becomes a tradition for tournament winners and their caddies.

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Sonny Bono (with his wife Mary) launches the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

1990

Stars Come Out for the Film Festival

Mayor Sonny Bono makes good on his promise to bring back Palm Springs' glamour by launching the Palm Springs International Film Festival. It draws more than 17,000 film patrons in the first year, which features Cinema Paradiso, the eventual Best Foreign Film winner at the Academy Awards. Today, the festival and its star-studded awards gala attract more than 135,000 attendees over 11 days of programming.

1998

Voters OK Indian Gaming

California voters pass Proposition 5, legalizing Indian gaming on tribal reservations in the state. Today, tribes operate casinos in and around the Coachella Valley: Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (Agua Caliente Casinos in Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Springs), Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians (Augustine Casino in Coachella), Cabazon Band of Mission Indians (Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio), Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians (Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella and Tortoise Rock Casino in Twentynine Palms), Morongo Band of Mission Indians (Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon), and Cahuilla Band of Indians (Cahuilla Casino Hotel in Anza).

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY VISIT PALM SPRINGS
Coachella music festival

1999

Goldenvoice Launches Coachella Festival

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, better known as “Coachella,” debuts at Empire Polo Club in Indio with headliners Beck, Tool, and Rage Against the Machine. Tickets sell for $50 for each day; about 17,000 tickets sell for the first day, and 20,000 for the second. Twenty-three years later, festival attendance over two weekends tops 250,000 people and gross revenue exceeds $110 million. Goldenvoice later establishes additional music festivals at the site, including the annual Stagecoach country music festival, which launched in 2007.

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM SPRINGS LIFE ARCHIVES
John McEnroe wins big at Mission Hills Country Club.

2000

Indian Wells Tennis Garden Opens

The home of the BNP Paribas Open — a joint event of the men’s ATP World Tour and the women’s WTA Tour and the fifth largest tennis tournament in the world — opens after event owners Charlie Pasarell (a former No. 1 player) and Raymond Moore raise the money to fund the $77 million development. The tournament, which dates to 1978, makes its tennis garden debut as the Pacific Life Open in 2002. Oracle Corp. co-founder/CEO and part-time Rancho Mirage resident Larry Ellison purchases the event and the venue in 2009.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY TOM BREWSTER
Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.

2000

Mountains Become a National Monument

When developers set their sights too close to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains, concerned citizens win public and tribal support to create a national monument, protecting the land for future generations. President Bill Clinton signs legislation on Oct. 24, 2000, making the monument — which stretches from Palm Springs to La Quinta — the first jointly managed monument, overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service in cooperation with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and other jurisdictions.

50 Moments That Shaped Greater Palm Springs (33)

PHOTOGRAPH BY LANCE GERBER
Artist Claudia Comte's Desert X installation, “Curves and Zigzags.”

2017

Desert X Lures Eyes of the Art World

A free-to-the-public exhibition of site-specific art rouses attention from near and far with its global roster of art stars creating eye-popping installations around the Coachella Valley. Doug Aitken’s “Mirage,” aka “the mirror house,” located in Palm Springs’ Chino Canyon, becomes a viral sensation on Instagram. The biennial exhibition also features locally based artists Armando Lerma and Phillip K. Smith III. The fourth Desert X exhibition opens in March 2023.

2022

Coachella Valley scores a Pro Hockey Team

The Coachella Valley Firebirds, an affiliate of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken and the 32nd franchise in the American Hockey League, begin play at the new Acrisure Arena. Head coach Dan Bylsma, a Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins and one-time NHL coach of the year, leads the franchise with Jessica Campbell, the first female assistant coach in the AHL.

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FAQs

What was Palm Springs called before? ›

The area originally was inhabited by Cahuilla Indians; it was known to the Spanish as Agua Caliente (“Hot Water”) for its hot springs. By 1872 it had become a stage stop between Prescott, Arizona, and Los Angeles.

When was Palm Springs formed? ›

Palm Springs was incorporated as a city in 1938, long after it became a playground for movie stars in the 1920's. Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley played an important part in World War II.

Who was the founder of Palm Springs? ›

The first humans to settle in the area were the Cahuilla people, who arrived 2,000 years ago. Cahuilla Indians lived here in isolation from other cultures for hundreds of years prior to European contact. They spoke Ivilyuat, which is a Uto-Aztecan language.

How did Palm Springs start? ›

Palm Springs (back then known as Agua Caliente, meaning hot water, then Palm Valley and finally Palm Springs, incorporated as a city in 1938) was discovered by a government survey team sent out to find a railroad route to the Pacific in 1853, for what would come to be, Southern Pacific Railroad.

What famous person lives in Palm Springs? ›

Who are the celebrities living in Palm Springs? Two of the famous people that live in Palm Springs are Goldie Hawn and her partner Kurt Russell. The couple have owned a 5,700-plus-square-foot home in Palm Desert since 2003. Other famous people who live in Palm Springs include Josh Homme, Sia, and Anne Rice.

What famous people lived in Palm Springs? ›

Many celebrities stayed and purchased hideaway homes in Palm Springs, such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Kirk Douglas, and Cary Grant, just to name a few. Several ladies were frequent visitors including Marilyn Monroe, Dinah Shore, Luciel Ball, Lily Tomlin, and Elizabeth Taylor.

What is Palm Springs most known for? ›

A popular resort city for many years, Palm Springs is known for its natural hot springs, hotels, restaurants, golf courses, and sunny weather. It's been a favorite destination for Hollywood stars since the 1930s, and many celebrities maintain homes in the Palm Springs area.

What movies have been filmed in Palm Springs? ›

Movies Made in Palm Springs
  • Lost Horizon (1937) ...
  • Sahara (1943) ...
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1971) ...
  • American Gigolo (1980) ...
  • The Opposite of Sex (1998) ...
  • Ocean's Eleven (2001) ...
  • The Scorpion King (2002) ...
  • Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Can you drink tap water Palm Springs? ›

Annual Drinking Water Quality Report

We are pleased to report that our drinking water is safe and meets Federal and State requirements. The Village of Palm Springs routinely monitors for contaminants in your drinking water according to federal and state laws.

Was the Coachella Valley underwater? ›

Lake Cahuilla (/kəˈwiː. ə/ kə-WEE-ə; also known as Lake LeConte and Blake Sea) was a prehistoric lake in California and northern Mexico. Located in the Coachella and Imperial Valleys, it covered surface areas of 5,700 km2 (2,200 sq mi) to a height of 12 m (39 ft) above sea level during the Holocene.

Is there a body of water in Palm Springs? ›

Finding a “sea” in the middle of the sweeping desert might seem like a mirage, but the Salton Sea is very real. The massive and intriguing body of water—really a huge lake—is found just east of Greater Palm Springs and makes for a fascinating day trip.

How old is Palm Springs CA? ›

IT STARTED OUT OVER 2,000 YEARS AGO, WE HAVE PROOF THAT THE NATIVE AMERICAN INDIANS DID LIVE HERE, AND WHERE THEY SETTLED WAS AROUND A PALM OASIS THAT WAS A HOT SPRING AND A COLD SPRING, NATURAL, THAT CAME THROUGH FISSURES.

Why do people live in Palm Springs? ›

The city is a popular retirement destination because of the warm weather. It also provides a second home for many households because the population triples during the winter months. Palm Springs became a fashionable resort in the early 1900s when health tourists arrived to take advantage of the dry heat.

What's the difference between Palm Springs and Palm Desert? ›

Palm Springs is the original city in the desert. It has a downtown area with restaurants/stores and a street fair/market every Thursday night. There are many original mid century modern homes and small hotels. Palm Desert has large resorts and some upscale malls and is more suburban feeling.

How many palm trees are in Palm Springs? ›

In fact, according to a spokesperson, city crews maintain roughly 6,000 palm trees (Washingtonia robusta, Washingtonia filifera, and hybrids) on our streets, of which 1,700 have skirts.

Where is Leonardo DiCaprio's house in Palm Springs? ›

Palm Springs, California has plenty of homes and mansions that are breathtaking inside and out. Leonardo DiCaprio's Palm Springs estate, located at 432 Hermosa, is no exception.

Where do the Kardashians go in Palm Springs? ›

Moreover, the Kardashian-Jenner women love to sunbathe in their bikinis, and as it happens, it hardly rains in Palm Springs. Last but certainly not least, Kris' home is actually located an acre inside an exclusive community called The Madison Club. One of the facility's major perks is a state-of-the-art golf course.

Where do famous people hang out in Palm Springs? ›

The hotel where you're most likely to spot celebrities in Palm Springs is by far the Parker Palm Springs. Especially around Film Festival time. Hidden behind a tall fortress of green hedges: the Parker is the ultimate modern celebrity hideaway…. for those who don't want to be seen ~ but in reality, kind of do!

Why is there a Marilyn Monroe statue in Palm Springs? ›

The artwork, sculpted by John Seward Johnson II in 2011, was inspired by a scene from the film, "The Seven Year Itch." It first came to Palm Springs in 2012 as a rental for 26 months and moved to New Jersey in 2014, said Aftab Dada, chairman of P.S. Resorts, a local hospitality group.

Where is Kourtney Kardashian's house in Palm Springs? ›

53285 Humboldt Blvd , La Quinta , CA 92253 - Kourtney kardashian Palm Springs House 🏡 - YouTube.

Who was born in Palm Springs? ›

1. Keith Coogan. Keith Coogan was born Keith Eric Mitchell on January 13, 1970 in Palm Springs, California.

Why did celebrities move to Palm Springs? ›

Because actors were obliged by contract to be within driving distance in the event of reshoots, many chose Palm Springs as a short-term getaway. And many stayed. To list everyone in the motion-picture industry who owned a home or regularly visited would require a separate publication about the size of a phone book.

What is the best month to go to Palm Springs? ›

October - December. The back end of the year is (perhaps not so secretly) the best time to visit Palm Springs. It has the preferable average temperatures of January - March (33 degrees in October, 21 degrees by December) but without as much of an influx of tourists and visitors. The best of both worlds, as they say.

Do people go to Palm Springs for spring break? ›

Palm Springs becoming the 'new capital of cool' for spring break vacationers. Sunshine, swimming pools, hiking trails, shopping and dining for all budgets make the Coachella Valley – and Palm Springs especially – a prime spot for spring break vacationers.

Where was Christmas in Palm Springs filmed? ›

The film, which features an east coast family who visits Palm Springs during the holidays, was filmed last year during the city's Festival of Lights. The movie premiered in a free community screening at the Palm Springs Convention Center on Sunday afternoon. About 100 residents attended.

What has been filmed at Joshua Tree? ›

The Forbidden Dimensions (2013)

Where is the house in Diamonds Are Forever? ›

One of the most stunning villas seen in a James Bond film is Elrod House in Palm Springs, which doubles as Willard Whyte's summer house in Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

Is Palm Springs expensive to live? ›

Palm Springs, California's cost of living is 22% higher than the national average. The cost of living in any area can vary based on factors such as your career, its average salary and the real estate market of that area.

Why is the water white in Palm Springs? ›

Occasionally, tiny air bubbles in tap water cause a cloudy appearance. Air dissolves into water when pressurized which occurs in the groundwater basin and in the water pipes that deliver water to your tap.

Why is it called Coachella Valley? ›

The valley had two names before 1900: Cahuilla, after the Cahuilla Indians who inhabited the vicinity, and Conchilla (Spanish: “Little Shell”), which referred to the existence of fossil shells in the area. A misspelling of the latter name on an official map resulted in the current name.

Will Palm Springs become uninhabitable? ›

Palm Springs, often referred to as California's playground for the wealthy, could become uninhabitable by the end of the century, as the number of extreme heat days is projected to increase as much as 150 percent.

How big is the aquifer under Palm Springs? ›

Nearly all of the water that is used in the Coachella Valley comes from a groundwater basin, or aquifer under the ground's surface. This aquifer is estimated to have a capacity of about 39 million acre-feet of water. Our groundwater is of such high quality that it requires very little treatment.

How deep is the water table in Palm Springs? ›

The Coachella Valley's groundwater basin can be imagined as a tilted bathtub filled with sand and gravel and topped with a layer of clay; water fills the spaces under the clay and in between the sand and gravel. Wells approximately 1,200 feet deep reach the highest quality water within the aquifer.

Is CA running out of water? ›

Water conservation falling short

Since the drought emergency was declared in July 2021, Californians have reduced water usage by 2%, far below the goal of 15%. The map is showing California Hydrologic Regions where the North Coast region conserved about 14% and the Colorado River region increased water use by 3.6%.

Is there an aquifer under Palm Springs? ›

Sources of Water

CVWD serves a population of nearly 320,000 with a total daily demand of 90.4 million gallons. The aquifer lies beneath the valley and ranges from Palm Springs on the north western end and terminates under the Salton Sea at the south eastern end.

What killed the Salton Sea? ›

It was closed in the 1980s after its jetty was destroyed by fluctuating water levels. The lakeside homes in Salton City, the populated tourist beach of Bombay, and the yacht club that once hosted prominent figures like Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys are now mostly deserted and badly polluted.

What is the racial makeup of Palm Springs? ›

Race and Ethnicity

In 2020, there were 3.55 times more White (Non-Hispanic) residents (30k people) in Palm Springs, CA than any other race or ethnicity. There were 8.44k White (Hispanic) and 2.36k Other (Hispanic) residents, the second and third most common ethnic groups.

How fast is Palm Springs growing? ›

Honorable Mention – Palm Springs

Its population has grown by over 130% in the past 20 years according to the 2020 census.

Is Palm Springs at sea level? ›

What type of people live in Palm Springs? ›

Palm Springs Demographics
  • White: 79.37%
  • Other race: 5.03%
  • Asian: 4.93%
  • Black or African American: 4.90%
  • Two or more races: 4.63%
  • Native American: 0.86%
  • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.29%

What's the coldest month in Palm Springs? ›

The cool season lasts for 3.2 months, from November 20 to February 28, with an average daily high temperature below 75°F. The coldest month of the year in Palm Springs is December, with an average low of 46°F and high of 69°F.

Is it nice to live in Palm Springs? ›

Warm weather and low humidity make Palm Springs very liveable. Many here are retirees, and the vibe is totally laid back. Shorts, sandals, and flip-flops are the daily get-up here, no doubt. It's so laid back that even businesses like banks have a casual attitude.

Is Indian Wells considered Palm Springs? ›

Indian Wells, California is a city located in the Greater Palm Springs area in the county of Riverside. The city was incorporated in 1967 and it lies distinctly between Palm Desert and La Quinta in the Coachella Valley.

Why is it called Palm Springs? ›

According to William Bright, when the word "palm" appears in Californian place names, it usually refers to the native California fan palm, Washingtonia filifera, which is abundant in the Palm Springs area. Other early names were "Palmetto Spring" and "Big Palm Springs".

Where in California has the most palm trees? ›

Los Angeles is virtually synonymous with palm trees. They're everywhere, lining the streets and adding their unmistakable silhouettes to the skyline. Although you find palm trees throughout Southern California, there's only one variety that truly belongs there.

What is the only palm tree native to California? ›

But despite the diversity and ubiquity of palms in the Los Angeles area, only one species—Washingtonia filifera, the California fan palm—is native to California.

What's the difference between Palm Springs and Palm Desert? ›

Palm Springs is the original city in the desert. It has a downtown area with restaurants/stores and a street fair/market every Thursday night. There are many original mid century modern homes and small hotels. Palm Desert has large resorts and some upscale malls and is more suburban feeling.

What is Palm Springs most known for? ›

A popular resort city for many years, Palm Springs is known for its natural hot springs, hotels, restaurants, golf courses, and sunny weather. It's been a favorite destination for Hollywood stars since the 1930s, and many celebrities maintain homes in the Palm Springs area.

How far apart are Palm Springs and Palm Desert? ›

The direct drive from Palm Springs to Palm Desert is 11.8 mi (19 km), and should have a drive time of 21 mins in normal traffic.

Are there springs in Palm Springs? ›

Greater Palm Springs is known for its hot mineral springs that flow beneath the surface and are pumped into the spas of hotels and resorts across the region. Many establishments offer spa day passes so tourists and locals alike can experience their mineral waters for the day.

Where can you see celebrities in Palm Springs? ›

The hotel where you're most likely to spot celebrities in Palm Springs is by far the Parker Palm Springs. Especially around Film Festival time. Hidden behind a tall fortress of green hedges: the Parker is the ultimate modern celebrity hideaway…. for those who don't want to be seen ~ but in reality, kind of do!

Why do people want to live in Palm Springs? ›

Warm weather and low humidity make Palm Springs very liveable. Many here are retirees, and the vibe is totally laid back. Shorts, sandals, and flip-flops are the daily get-up here, no doubt. It's so laid back that even businesses like banks have a casual attitude.

What movies have been filmed in Palm Springs? ›

Movies Made in Palm Springs
  • Lost Horizon (1937) ...
  • Sahara (1943) ...
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1971) ...
  • American Gigolo (1980) ...
  • The Opposite of Sex (1998) ...
  • Ocean's Eleven (2001) ...
  • The Scorpion King (2002) ...
  • Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Can you drink tap water Palm Springs? ›

Annual Drinking Water Quality Report

We are pleased to report that our drinking water is safe and meets Federal and State requirements. The Village of Palm Springs routinely monitors for contaminants in your drinking water according to federal and state laws.

Why did celebrities move to Palm Springs? ›

Because actors were obliged by contract to be within driving distance in the event of reshoots, many chose Palm Springs as a short-term getaway. And many stayed. To list everyone in the motion-picture industry who owned a home or regularly visited would require a separate publication about the size of a phone book.

Is Palm Desert wealthy? ›

The per capita income in Palm Desert in 2018 was $45,916, which is upper middle income relative to California, and wealthy relative to the rest of the US. This equates to an annual income of $183,664 for a family of four. However, Palm Desert contains both very wealthy and poor people as well.

Is Indian Wells considered Palm Springs? ›

Indian Wells, California is a city located in the Greater Palm Springs area in the county of Riverside. The city was incorporated in 1967 and it lies distinctly between Palm Desert and La Quinta in the Coachella Valley.

Is Palm Springs at sea level? ›

Where does Palm Springs get water? ›

The Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) relies on four sources of water to provide service to its customers: groundwater, recycled water, imported water from the State Water Project and the Colorado River via the Coachella Canal, a branch of the All-American Canal.

Why is Palm Springs called springs? ›

Hidden beneath a metal cover next to the sidewalk on Indian Canyon Drive, hot spring water bubbles up through sand into a steaming underground pool. This spring gave the city of Palm Springs its name.

Does California have natural hot springs? ›

California is home to several places where you can rest and relax in hot springs, with locations ranging from chic luxury hotels to backcountry locales that are only accessible via a rugged hike. Here are the best natural hot springs in California for you to consider for your next trip to the Golden State.

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